Except that her computer wouldn’t start. The battery was dead. It was the final straw, and she glared at the damned thing, contemplated hurling it to the floor, then settled for telling it what she thought of it, under her breath.
She heard a soft, masculine chuckle, and then a man’s voice.
“Here you go, darling,” he said.
Lara looked up. A man was standing in front of her. He was tall, he was probably what some women would call handsome, and if he thought she was in the mood for some fun and games, he was about to have his smug little smile stuffed right up his nose.
She drew herself up and looked at him as coldly as she could.
“I beg your pardon?”
But not coldly enough, apparently. His smile broadened and he shot a pointed look at the person seated in the chair next to hers. Lara lifted her brows. Obviously he was accustomed to having things his way. Well, she thought as the wimp beside her gave up his seat, this bozo was in for a big surprise.
“I am the answer to your prayers, Sugar,” her unwanted visitor said. He had a drawl of some kind. Not Southern; she knew Southern drawls. Western, maybe. That would explain the lean, rangy look to him, and those ridiculous cowboy boots.
“I am not named ‘Sugar,’” she said coldly. “You’re out of your league, cowboy. If those boots of yours are made for walking, you’d better let them walk.”
He grinned. It was, she had to admit, a nice grin on a nice face. Definitely handsome, if you liked men who looked as if they’d just ridden down from the hills, despite what had to be a hand-tailored suit and a Burberry raincoat. Not that any of that changed the fact that she wasn’t interested.
“Ah,” he said, “I see. You think this is just an old-fashioned pickup.”
Lara gave a wide-eyed stare. “My goodness,” she said sweetly, “isn’t it?”
The stranger sighed, as if she’d wounded him deeply. Then he opened his computer case and took out a battery. She saw, right away, it was the duplicate of hers.
“It’s painful to be misjudged, Sugar,” he said. “You need a battery for your computer and I just happen to have an extra. Now, does that sound like a pickup line to you?”
Of course it did. Lara started to tell him he was wasting his time. But his eyes were twinkling, and what was the harm in admitting she saw the humor in the situation? A few minutes of conversation might make the interminable delay seem less onerous.
“Yes,” she said, and smiled, to show she wasn’t really offended.
“Well, you’re right. But you have to admit, it’s creative.”
She laughed, and he laughed, and that was the way it all began.
“Hi,” he said, and held out his hand. “I’m Slade.”
She hesitated, then took his hand. “I’m Lara.”
A tiny electric jolt passed between them.
“Static electricity,” she said quickly, and pulled back her hand.
“Or something.” He smiled again. “I couldn’t help but overhear your, uh, your conversation. The one you were having with yourself. I didn’t actually hear what you called your dead battery, but I have a pretty good imagination.”
She laughed. “I’m afraid I wasn’t being very polite.”
“I’m serious about giving you that extra battery.”
“Thanks, but I can do without it.”
“Well, I’ll lend it to you, then. So you can check your e-mail, or whatever.”
“I did that, just before the stupid thing died. Actually it’s the ‘whatever’ part that I was going for.” She smiled. “I was going to play solitaire.”
His brows lifted. They were dark brows, winged a little at the ends, and went nicely with his black, silky-looking hair. “Computer solitaire. The wonder of the age,” he said with a dead-serious expression. “One card or three?”
“One, of course. Timed, with Vegas rules…”
“The deck with the palm trees?”
Lara laughed. “Uh-huh. I like that little face that appears, the one that grins when you least expect it.”
“Ah, the wonders of the chip,” the stranger said, and they fell into easy conversation—except she really wasn’t quite sure what either of them was saying.
She thought about that electrical jolt she’d felt when she’d put her hand in his. It hadn’t been static electricity at all; it had been a tingling sense of sexual awareness. She’d never felt it before but that didn’t mean she was incapable of recognizing it.
And why not? This man, this stranger named Slade, was, to put it simply, gorgeous.
Tall, dark and handsome. Three little words but, when applied to him, spectacular. Coal-black hair. Smoky-gray eyes shaded by thick, black lashes. A blade of a nose set above a firm mouth and a square, dimpled chin. And even inside that custom-tailored suit, Lara could tell he had the kind of body the guys at her health club sweated for but never quite managed to achieve. He had a nice sense of humor, too, and he was intelligent…
And, just like that, the voice of the girl in the TV interview zipped through her head.
If I’d picked up a stranger in a bar, some guy with good looks and enough brains to carry on an intelligent conversation…
Lara knew she was blushing but she couldn’t help it. A stranger in a bar? My God, what was wrong with her? Here he was, this hunky stranger, looking for a way to pass the time while the snow kept them trapped in the airport, and here she was, thinking that he’d be the right man to father her baby.
Not that there was anything wrong in thinking about it, because she’d never do such a thing. Of course not. Have sex with a stranger? Not her. But she knew how easy it would be. An exchange of business cards, the suggestion that he look her up if he came to Atlanta or even something more specific, say, a deliberate plan to meet somewhere for a weekend…
Lara let her thoughts drift. No, it wouldn’t be difficult at all. He was interested in her, that was obvious. And he had a way about him that suggested he’d be good in bed, that he’d know how to bring a woman pleasure. Not that pleasure mattered, in a situation like this. It was all hypothetical, and you didn’t need to enjoy sex just to get pregnant. Still, he’d know all the right moves.
She knew she was blushing again but she couldn’t help it. Such wacky thoughts to be having, especially for a woman who had a sexual past uninteresting and unvaried enough to almost be embarrassing. But as long as she was indulging herself in this fantasy, there was no harm in imagining that he’d be good in bed. After all, she’d only have the one chance at getting pregnant. Weren’t there statistics that showed orgasm increased those chances?
Something must have shown in her face because suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, he stopped talking and just stared at her. She was on the verge of grabbing her stuff and fleeing when he asked her if she wanted some coffee.
What she wanted was to stop thinking these insane thoughts.
Tell him no, she told herself, and then get up and walk away…
“Yes,” she said, “I’d love some.”
He rose from his chair. She did, too. They walked to the rear of the lounge, poured some coffee, sat down on a small sofa in a corner and she tried, really tried, to concentrate on what he was saying and to stop thinking nonsense, like how it might feel if he kissed her.
Thoughts like that had never occupied her mind before.
They did, now.
And when he refilled her cup and his hand brushed hers, she felt as if she’d been shot through with a low-voltage electrical charge. A stranger in a bar, she thought again, and she forced a little laugh.
“Whoops,” she said. “One of us needs to be grounded before we go up in flames.”
She knew, instantly, it was the wrong thing to say. It sounded like a come-on and she hadn’t meant it like that…had she?
It was obvious what Slade thought. His eyes darkened, and a little muscle knotted just beside his mouth.
“Going up in flames might be fun,” he said in a voice that sent shivers up he
She felt a tremor go through her, and she began chattering inanely about something else. Anything, to lessen the growing tension. He could handle this; he was that type of man, the kind who probably left swooning women behind him wherever he went. But she couldn’t. She felt as if she were letting her sanity slip away.
Silence built between them.
“You’re beautiful,” he said softly.
So are you, she thought, and blushed. “Thank you.”
“What does your hair look like, when it’s loose?”
The intimacy of the question stunned her. “What?”
“Your hair. Is it long? Does it fall over your shoulders, and your breasts?” He took the cup from her and put it on the table beside him. “This isn’t just another pickup line,” he said softly. “You know it’s not.”
She looked into his eyes and what she saw was her undoing. No man had ever looked at her this way, had ever made her feel this way. Desirable. Sexy. Seductive. She knew what he was thinking, that he was imagining what it would be like to undress her, take down her hair, kiss her and stroke her and make her sob out his name…
An announcement blared over the loudspeaker. Thank God, Lara thought, and focused her attention on the disembodied voice.